I realize this is blasphemy, but a few weeks ago I tried to watch a NASCAR race being run at Talladega. I lasted about five minutes before terminal boredom overtook me. It appeared to be nothing more than a high-speed freeway commute--a mob of luridly painted, identical lumps of metal loping at 180 mph around the banking, fender to fender, nose to tail. Knowing the scenario would surely devolve into a multicar demolition derby that would thrill the goobers in the grandstands, I turned off the set to later learn that this time it was Jimmie Johnson who triggered the... Read more »
Unlike conventional jocks, who tend to sell aluminum siding and give canned speeches to parochial-school athletic banquets in the off-season, race drivers never shuck their image when they leave the stadium. They are supposed to be zany, nomadic soldiers of fortune who are involved in wild endeavors during every waking moment.
The whole movie thing has never been a source of great pride for me, in that Burt Reynolds, who starred in the picture, butchered the original script I had written for the late Steve McQueen, and the result, while a massive moneymaker, was lashed by the critics. But like the old joke about Pierre the Bridge Builder, The Cannonball Run is indelibly inscribed on my so-called career portfolio, and few conversations with strangers pass without the subject of the picture arising.
While greenies and their media flunkies continue to savage the gasoline-powered internal-combustion engine and rhapsodize about hybrids, hydrogen, electrics, natural gas, propane, nuclear, and God-knows-what-other panaceas, perhaps including bovine urine, there are no realistic, economically viable alternatives. None. Zero. Like it or not, as long as we remain dependent on the private automobile for transportation (roughly 80 percent of all movement in the nation is by car), we are harnessed to the IC gas engine.
The appeal of the Riverside 500 was based on that overall spectacle of witnessing a mob of brightly colored, bellowing automobiles gamboling over the countryside like a herd of runaway steers. Stock car roadracing is in fact like a mechanical stampede, and we personally think it's maybe the neatest form of motor racing known to man. It's definitely the greatest spectacle in roadracing.
Some critics of racing witlessly claim that spectators only attend to see someone die. This is utter and complete nonsense. I have been at numerous races where death is present. When a driver dies, the crowd symbolically dies, too. They come to see action at the brink: ultimate risk taking and the display of skill and bravery embodied in the sport's immortals like Nuvolari, Foyt, and thousands of others who operate at the ragged edge.